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A quick look at Tennessee Tech

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All right, we're all still a little hurt and a little (is little the right word?) demoralized, but the time has come to move on.

On the surface, it may not seem like Saturday's tilt with Tennessee Tech presents us with a great deal to get excited about, but let's try and remember that a win over the Golden Eagles will mean every bit as much as a win over West Virginia would...you know, in absolutely no sense other than the literal one, but still...literally.

I'm not going to try and act like I've taken in a Tennessee Tech football game in this year or any other (I was busy campaigning for Menzies in Australia during the fall of '61), but that's no excuse for not taking at least a brief look at the pride of Cookeville.

VITALS

Affiliation: Division I Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA)

Conference: Ohio Valley

Season Opener: Beat Gardner-Webb (hey!), 28-12

2007 Record: 4-7, 2-6

2007 Games Against D-1 Opponents: Lost at Auburn (35-3)

2007 Common Opponents: Murray State (TT won 48-24, UL won 73-10)

OFFENSE

Much of the Tech offense centers around big-armed quarterback Lee Sweeney, a junior who transferred in from Louisville after redshirting during the 2005 season. A three-year starter and former OVC Freshman of the Year, he's thrown for just under 4,000 yards in his Golden Eagle career.

In last week's win over Gardner-Webb (hey!), Sweeney went 19-of-31 for 199 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He accounted for another score on the ground. Though he is advertised as having a strong arm and an able body, interceptions have plagued Sweeney throughout his college career, as 27 of his passes have found their way into enemy arms.

Like Louisville, Tech has some serious issues with their running game, which produced only 63 yards on 33 attempts in the season-opener. Derek White, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2007, is gone, and has handed the reigns to sophomore Henry Sailes. After an explosive debut season in which he averaged 10.2 yards per carry, Sailes was able to muster just 26 yards on ten carries in his first start. He was, however, Sweeney's favorite target through the air, hauling in ten passes for 78 yards. Cedric Wilkerson and Derrian Waters will also see significant touches out of the backfield.

As reference above, Sweeney loves to move the ball via quick hitters to running backs in the flat or over the middle, but when he does air it out against the Cards he'll likely be looking in the direction of Tim Benford, a freshman who caught five passes for 99 yards and a touchdown last weekend.

And just in case you'd forgotten what a touchdown looks like, here's a clip of Benford finding the endzone against the Runnin' Bulldogs.


It's finds like these that have St. Margaret Mary's second grade flag coach breathing down my neck about a scouting position.

A veteran front five boasting two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore anchors the offense. Senior guards Scott Eller and Derrick Outlaw headline the unit.

DEFENSE

New defensive coordinator Billy Taylor has shifted the Golden Eagle defense from a 4-3 look to a 3-4 setup. It's a move that appears to being paying dividends already.

In last Saturday's season-opener, the Tech defense held Gardner-Webb to just 35 rushing yards on 34 carries, and sacked the Runnin' Bulldog quarterback four times.

Responsible for .5 of those sacks and a team-best 14 tackles was preseason first team All-OVC free safety Maurice Smith. Smith, a senior, was second on the team and third in the conference in tackles a season ago with 102. He was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week after a 13 tackle/one interception performance against Murray State.

Smith is the captain of a relatively inexperienced secondary which struggled just a bit against Gardner-Webb, surrendering 235 yards on 28-of-41 passing.

Despite losing a pair of All-OVC tackles to graduation, the Golden Eagles have experience up front in the form of veterans Martini Hilliard, Justin Hilliard, Brendon Fisher and Bradley Thompson. The quartet combined for 12 tackles in week one.

The headliner of Tech's four-man linebacking crew so far has been junior Dontrel Baines, who notched 13 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack in the season-opener. Senior middle linebacker Corey Reed added 12 stops, and fellow starters Jake Kiser and Charlie Seivers, a converted tight end, combined for ten more.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Sailes handles most of the return duties, and took a kick 76 yards to the house to start the second half of last week's game. Sophomore kicker/punter Justin Kraemer set a school record for kickers with 75 points a year ago. He has connected on both of his field goal attempts (37, 39) so far this season.

FINAL THOUGHT

If we lose, I'm going to beat up a puppy...your puppy.